Chage & Aska were one of the top bands of the J-pop/Japanese folk-rock scene (the difference between the two is blurred), and Aska's solo career had a fair share of Oricon Top Ten hits as well. So it stands to reason that Aska's career retrospective is an impressive piece of work, quality-wise, though short on originality. The record proves that Aska really loved his Billy Joel and Bangles records, and even the Rod Stewart ones, although those were probably too rowdy for him; the typical ‘80s synths and clean guitars create simple textures to go with plenty of piano and violins, and Aska himself croons like there's no tomorrow, being backed on more than one occasion by a female vocal army that Joe Cocker probably wouldn't have minded to employ on his world tour. This is pop of the sort that seems to be tailored for Julia Roberts/Richard Gere chick flicks, but Aska polished it to perfection and then some, adding Take That-styled mellifluousness and ‘70s romcom OST strings. Most importantly, the melodies are pop classics that would've worked in the ‘30s or ‘60s as well as they did in the '90s-2000s (although the arrangements may have varied slightly). The songs are plain good -- sugary as a Willy Wonka dessert party, sure, but also dynamic and at times even overwhelming, thanks to that bluesy bombast; Aska can be catchy when he wants it, and when he's waxing romantic (that is, most of the time), he still remembers not to bore the audience. Though derivative in its own right, 12 provides ample proof of why so many J-pop artists have been falling head over heels to adopt this branch of extra-sweet and sunny guitar pop sound, and why Aska is better at it than most of his followers.
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